Thomas Hand, the father of Emily Hand, listens to Orit Meir, the mother of Almog Meir
Thomas Hand has been led to believe his Irish-Israeli daughter Emily had been slaughtered during the bloody cross-border raid on Be’eri kibbutz last month – but he considered that easier than not knowing her fate.
He described the October 7 attack as “an existential strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland for Jewish people”.
Mr Hand, thinking Emily had died after a sleepover at a friend’s, had tearfully called her death in the circumstances “a blessing”.
But the distraught dad has been plunged into fresh despair after it emerged the helpless girl, who turned nine on Friday, is now thought to be holed up somewhere in Gaza.
She is said to be one of as many as 250 hostages taken by militants in the killing spree that left 1,400 dead.
Mr Hand, 63, broke down at the Israeli Embassy in London yesterday as he pleaded: “Help us to get Emily back, please.”
He added: “She won’t even know it’s her birthday. She won’t know what day it is. Can you imagine the fear?”
He admitted that he was “sort of relieved to be told she was dead because I’d rather that than have her taken hostage”. He went on to say: “The way they told me – Emily had been found, she was in the kibbutz, she’d been found dead. I’ll never forget those three statements.”
Now knowing that she is said to be alive, he added: “At some point in the day, they kidnapped my little Emily. They took her away. They took her on their trucks and off to Gaza.”
Mr Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire near Dublin, said: “You don’t know if she is being fed or watered or what about the toilet.
Emily Hand near Kibbutz, Israel. Emily is believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas
“The sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels. Panic every hour of every day.
“She must be saying, ‘Where’s my daddy?’ That’s what I’m living through – it’s a nightmare.
“We pray that we get them back. I want Emily back. She’s going to be broken but we will have to fix that. Can you imagine what that poor little child is going through every single day, terrified? Death in my head is an easier option.”
Mr Hand claimed: “Hamas in their psychological warfare tactics are not allowing the Red Cross to get any proof of life, carrying on our pain and torment.”
A rampaging mob of heavily armed jihadists stormed the quiet community of Be’eri, southern Israel, in the October 7 dawn raid.
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The village was where Israeli troops later found devoted British-born mother Lianne Sharabi, 48, and teenage daughters Noiya, 16, and Yahel, 13, “all cuddled together” murdered in their blood-splattered home.
The fate of her Israeli husband Eli, 51, is unknown. The community of 1,100 people had been awoken when an alarm indicated a rocket attack.
Hamas insurgents killed more than 120, including children, and kidnapped others.
They set homes on fire, ransacking and stealing at will. Gunmen screamed orders in Arabic, running from door-to-door as families begged for mercy but were mowed down, some after being given a head start and told to escape.
Israeli soldiers, who entered the village three days later, found hundreds of bodies riddled with bullets.
Yotam Haim a drummer for heavy metal band Persephore, has been missing since October 7
Mr Hand said: “I don’t know how a human being could be so evil. They had evil in their hearts. They were slaughtering, raping and dismembering.”
Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim, 28, who was snatched from his apartment in Kfar Aza kibbutz, said: “My son has a chronic disease and needs one shot every month.
“I cannot explain what I feel. It’s not army against army. It’s monsters against children.”
Almog Meir, 21, was identified in a video as being a captive in Gaza after being seized at the Supernova music festival.
His mum Orit Meir said: “It’s a living nightmare. The reality of my life is no sleeping, no eating, everything has stopped.” It is claimed Israel, America, and Hamas have reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of women and children hostages in exchange for a five-day pause in the fighting.